It will take sweat, but no sweat.
That is Shane Lemieux’s take, after taking every snap of every game for four years at Oregon at one spot — left guard — facing the reality of coming to the Giants and training not only at guard, but at center. It is a spot he has never played but could very well wind up, given the state of the position with his new team.
“I think I’m an offensive lineman,’’ Lemieux said Tuesday on a Zoom call. “I’m a football player that plays offensive line. No matter where the coaches want to put me to best help the team, that’s where I’m going to go.’’
Lemieux is not the first offensive lineman to come out of the draft and find himself lined up in unfamiliar surroundings. This transition, though, is more than the usual “the more you can do’’ mantra nearly every big guy hears. If Lemieux is able to show he can handle himself at center, he could be in line for a starting role, perhaps immediately. That is getting ahead of the situation, of course, but it is not far-fetched.
The options waiting on the roster are not ideal. Veteran Spencer Pulley has experience — 26 NFL starts at center, including nine with the Giants in 2018 — but is considered a fallback. Undrafted Nick Gates, a tackle, will get reps this offseason at center. Jon Halapio is unsigned following surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, though he could return at some point this summer.
Lemieux never missed a game at Oregon, starting all 52 and amassing 3,611 career snaps, every single one at left guard. Other than taking a seat when the Ducks were far ahead, he said the only snap he missed in his entire career came as a sophomore, when his shoe came off in a game against Wyoming. He also never missed a practice.
This hearkens back to another Giants fifth-round pick, David Diehl, taken 17 years ago. Diehl was an incredibly durable workhorse who started games for the Giants at left tackle, right tackle, left guard and right guard. But he was never asked to play center.
Lemieux said his training prior to the draft consisted of working at every spot on the offensive line.
“As a rookie there’s not really a guard that just plays guard,’’ he said. “Versatility is the biggest factor in this game. Coaches want to be able to put you into multiple spots.’’
It is no surprise Lemieux mentioned Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, who recently retired from the Ravens, when identifying an offensive lineman he most looks up to. Why Yanda? Lemieux was taken with how Yanda managed to walk off the field once despite having fractured his ankle.
“When people ask me who the toughest player on our team is, I say Shane Lemieux,” tight end Jake Breeland, a teammate of Lemieux’ at Oregon, said at the NFL scouting combine. “He comes into treatment while I’m in there and he’s all banged up but he still toughens out practices every week.’’
The Giants are set at guard with starters Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez. Zeitler is heading into the final year of his contract. New head coach Joe Judge said Lemieux offers “interior swing value’’ and was impressed when he watched Oregon tape that Lemieux “plays with nasty. You turn the Auburn game on, and right from the first snap he’s tossing bodies around.’’
The body-tossing now must transfer over to center.
Lemieux said he tried snapping in college, just because, and has intensified the learning process while training in Arizona at LeCharles Bentley’s renowned offensive line school.
“I feel like with center there’s a lot more responsibility on you to know the offense and to know more of the defense and to just be more sound with what’s going on around you,’’ Lemieux said. “And obviously you’ve got to snap the ball.’’
Obviously. And easier said than done.
“He has to learn to step and punch, as that snap comes up, he’s got to be able to get his hands on that defender right away, and that takes a little adjustment if you haven’t done it,’’ Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout at Ourlads Scouting Services, told The Post. “You’re snapping, stepping and punching. It’s kind of simultaneous. Before when you’re at guard you don’t have to snap.’’
Now he has to snap.
“I think I’m a natural offensive lineman,’’ Lemieux said, “where I can play any position I’m asked.’’
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